Report By: Nina Rai
Tel Aviv, Oct., 20, 2012:
In what looks to be intense military preparedness ahead of a potential combat with Iran, more than a thousand US troops are en-route to Israel in what is considered to be the biggest joint military drill undertaken to date between the two close allies.
The Israeli-US operation code-named "Austere Challenge 2012" is centered on ballistic missile defence. The joint operation comprises of a large number of Israeli anti-ballistic missile systems. It also includes the Arrow and the much shorter range Iron Dome, the latter having already proved its worthiness neutralizing missile fire from the enemy Gaza camp.
From the American side, the very latest version of Patriot missile defense batteries is deployed into Israel. In all around 3,500 US personnel will be participating in what US officials are saying is the single largest joint US-Israeli military exercise in history, with around 1,000 deployed in theatre
While some of the US military personnel will be participating in the military exercise in Israel, many will be doing so at their European bases. Meanwhile, an Aegis radar-equipped warship, as the naval control center, is also deployed in the Mediterranean Sea.
The massive show of strength is the sixth in a series of ballistic missile defence training maneuvers conducted throughout Israel and offshore in Europe by the two nations. Operation "Austere Challenge 2012" however, will not come cheap. The combined bill of the joint military operation is estimated to be close to $40 million.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Defense, US expenditure towards the exercise is $30 million, while for Israelis the cost is roughly $7.9 million. Apparently the drill was to be conducted some months back, but was postponed due to "regional instability." Allegedly, it was done at Israel’s behest as there were some doubts then about an imminent Israeli strike at Iranian nuclear targets.
Furthermore, for whatever reason, the US element actually deployed to Israel has also been somewhat scaled down. The exercise, meanwhile, will be conducted over a period of coming two to three weeks. It will comprise of a whole series of fake engagements with missiles being "fired" at Israel from two fronts.
The idea is to check out how the different components of land and sea-based systems such as radars, interceptors, etc are compatible enough to counter this complex threat. Jointly the two nations US and Israel will find out if their command systems and computer codes are compatible.
The significance of this largest US-Israel joint military exercise in history will definitely not be lost on the world, least of all to Iran, Israel’s arch foe. US Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin told the media this week: "This exercise is purely about improving combined U.S.-Israeli military capability. It is not related to any national elections nor any perceived tensions in the Middle East,’’ he added.
Well, no one is buying the explanation by Franklin that operation Austere Challenge is only about US-Israel military teamwork and that it is not related to the election campaign in either nation or to any perceived tensions in the region. Whether any one agrees or not, fact is this massive drill is taking place in the midst of two major general election campaigns and during what is surely only a muted period in hostilities over Iran.
This exercise is also a powerful response to the barrage of harsh accusations made by the Republicans against Obama camp during the US presidential election campaign, especially, Mitt Romney’s accusation that President Obama is soft-pedaling on the Iran nuclear issue. His criticism being that Obama is not doing any thing significant on the matter and depending on sanctions and diplomatic means to tackle a belligerent Tehran.
In short, he is not proving to be as strong a supporter of Israel as he is projecting. Well, the jury is out, so to speak. This huge show of strength clearly indicates the strong military relationship that exists between the two allies and is growing stronger under the incumbent US President Barack Obama, and all set to counter any threat from any nation in the region.
Sources: BBC/NBC News
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